ATHENS, GREECE — The game of chess is set to receive its first update since its initial launch in the 6th century AD, as mandated by the World Chess Foundation. Previous updates have added quality-of-life changes such as the 50-move rule and chess clocks, however, none of them have modified the pieces themselves — until now. On Tuesday, FIDE released their set of balance changes for the game of chess, as follows:
Welcome to the first ever set of changes to the game of chess since the 18th century! In the 2019 update, we seek to modernize the game while also re-balancing the pieces. Over the years, there have been some clear strategies developed, especially for the early-game — this update should allow players to experiment a bit more.
We noticed that knights are a bit overtuned in terms of early board control, and then falling off hard in more open positions. Giving knights more mobility at the cost of their “jumping” mechanic should fix that.
MORE MOBILITY: Knights are able to now move up to 2 spaces both horizontally and vertically in one move.
NO MORE KNIGHTS JUMPING ON THE BED: Knights’ moves are only legal if no pieces block the path.
Pawns largely impact early-game play by providing structure, while also impacting late-game by providing promotion opportunities. For a piece each player has 8 of, that’s a bit too much power. This should adjust pawn power curves to keep pawns as a viable checkmate option late-game while requiring more skill than just running it down to get a queen. We’ll buff their early-game to compensate.
NOT SO REGAL: Pawns can no longer promote to queens.
ENHANCED RANGE: The double-step rule now applies to captures too — a white pawn on e2 can take an enemy on f4 or d4 by moving to e3 and then to f4.
Bishops are in a fairly healthy state right now, as they are restricted to a single color. However, the bishop pair proves somewhat troublesome when it comes to balance, as these two pieces are able to dominate the board with proper positioning. This update should make positioning a bit harder, without touching the diagonal power a singular bishop provides.
RESTRAINING ORDER: Allied bishops may not be moved adjacent to each other. (This rule does not apply to bishop promotions.)
Rooks are also fairly healthy due to their early-game restrictions on mobility. The only issue lies in the queenside castle, which moves the rook towards the center too fast by giving it a position on the d-file. Nerfing queenside castles should balance things out with their kingside counterparts.
NOT SO FAST: Queenside castling now involves moving the king to the b-file and the rook to the c-file.
While the queen can be a powerful ranged threat, her added mobility makes her a bit too much of a threat to simply dive in, take a piece and back out quickly. While the dive in portion is okay, trapping the enemy queen is too hard, so we’re taking away a few escape routes. This should ease up on her potential for early board control.
GO HARD OR GO HOME: Queens can no longer cross over the line separating 4th and 5th ranks (midway) as part of a diagonal-backwards move.
Of course, with this new version of chess, we seek to diversify gameplay strategies through both gameplay changes and additional pieces. This patch introduces a couple new pieces that should shake things up for the next couple centuries.
A fan favorite, the cannon from Chinese Chess has now been added to the standard set of pieces included in Chess v2.0.
MOVEMENT: The cannon typically moves like a rook — any distance along ranks and files.
CAPTURING: To capture, the cannon moves some distance vertically or horizontally, jumping over one piece before ending up on a square occupied by an enemy piece.
VALUE: 4 points — equivalent to a rook in mobility, but less so in late-game checkmate potential.
The bomb should spice things up a bit by giving players the opportunity to set up plays by dropping pieces in locations of their choice.
MOVEMENT: Can be dropped by the player anywhere on the board, crazyhouse style, except on the enemy’s 2 starting ranks. After dropping, cannot be moved.
CAPTURING: The bomb cannot capture enemy pieces.
ON CAPTURE: When an enemy piece captures the bomb, that enemy piece is also captured. Both pieces are then removed.
OBSTRUCTION: Pieces cannot capture through a bomb.
VALUE: 0.6 pawn
We wanted to pay homage to another game played on the 8-by-8 board, namely, checkers. Adding a single checker should nicely keep the game’s identity intact while offering more dynamic plays.
MOVEMENT: Moves one square diagonally forwards for each non-capture move.
CAPTURING: The checker moves exactly two squares in a diagonal-forward direction, jumping over one (1) enemy piece and capturing it.
PROMOTION: If the checker reaches the other end of the board, it gains the ability to move and capture diagonally backwards.
VALUE: 2 pawns
Acquiring New Pieces:
Of course, while these new pieces can present new strategic opportunities, we wanted to prevent from chess games from getting entirely out of control. This new mechanic should help prevent power creep in initial piece loadouts.
TRADE-IN: Either rook (or both!) can be traded in for a cannon. Cannons cannot castle.
ACQUIRING A BOMB: To acquire a bomb, each player can opt to forgo their first turn, receiving a bomb in return. This option can be exercised once per player.
CHESS, NOT CHECKERS: The 2-pawn value of the checker means that it has no exact value-equivalent in Chess. Rather, we’re allowing players to trade in a pawn and a bishop for two checkers.
BE WHAT YOU WANT: Pawns can now promote to cannons, in addition to knights, bishops, and rooks.
While chess is an inherently simplistic game, it still has rules that can be rewarding if used properly. In this update, we’re going to try and re-standardize the game as a whole.
EN PASSANT: Pawns can now be captured en passant by all pieces, not just other pawns. That is, the move sequence 10. c4 Nxc3 en passant is legal under these new rules.
TIMING RULES: Chess clocks are now all sand timers, to prevent the strategy of looking at the opposing clock to time out the opponent.
50-MOVE RULE UPDATE: The 50-move rule only applies if both players agree that the situation is drawn. This prevents premature draws in certain situations, such as this #-545 scenario.
INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL: A bishop pair is no longer sufficient mating material. A single cannon is also not sufficient mating material with the piece changes. However, a single knight is now sufficient mating material.
CHESS SETS: All chess sets now must contain pieces with felt bases, so that placing pieces on the board is not overly loud.
NEW PIECES: The cannon, checker, and bomb each can be found with corresponding miniatures from a local hobby shop or chess shop. We hope to roll out official FIDE versions of the miniatures for purchase within the next few years.
Thanks for reading through this first set of patch notes. We intend on pushing out Chess 2.0 to almost all major tournaments within the next few years, including the world championship. We’ll also observe the impacts of these changes, and look to push out Chess 2.1 around 2120. For players more interested in playing the classical game, the “legacy” version of chess will be kept until around 2025. We hope players gain a sense of pride and accomplishment through trying new strategies with the changes made in Chess 2.0.